Zoonotic infections…What are those you say?!?!? A zoonotic disease is an infection that is naturally transmitted from vertebrate animals to human beings. Pigs have been the source of significant zoonotic infections of humans, including like this one, a fatal case of “swine influenza” attributed to the swine influenza virus. State health officials in Ohio reported the first human death from this new variant strain of swine flu on August 31.
Federal health officials confirmed the death of a 61-year-old Ohio woman and said 14 other victims had been hospitalized by the new strain.
Also, in a shift, CDC conceded that there had been “limited person-to-person spread of this virus.” As recently as three weeks ago, the agency insisted that all known cases had been caused by contact with pigs. YIKES!
The Ohio woman had had direct contact with pigs at the Ross County Fair before falling ill, the Ohio Department of Health said. She also had other unspecified health problems that might have contributed to her death.
The new strain is known as H3N2v; the “v” is for “variant.” Thus far, it has proved no more deadly than seasonal flu and can be suppressed by antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza.
Its origins are complex. It contains external genes (H for hemagglutinin and N for neuraminidase) that jumped from humans to pigs in the 1990s and circulated in them separately from the seasonal human H3N2. But it also contains one internal gene (the M for matrix) from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu that circled the globe and was very infectious but not very lethal.
According to the disease agency, the new H3N2v was first found in pigs in 2010 and the first human case was confirmed in July 2011. More than 90 percent of the 289 confirmed cases have occurred in families that raise and exhibit pigs, said Dr. Lynn Finelli, who leads the surveillance and outbreak response team of the agency’s flu division. A majority of the cases have been in Ohio and Indiana, but they have also occurred as “one offs” in Maine and Hawaii.